Prepper Guns: Firearms, Ammo, Tools, and Techniques You Will Need to Survive the Coming Collapse (2016)


Semiauto Options

Got problems with your semiauto shotgun? It’s probably because it has gas.


The author shooting a Benelli M2 shotgun in 3-gun competition.

From a tactical application, the biggest problems with a semiauto shotgun come from heat and dirt. It’s one thing if your shotgun goes on strike in the middle of the duck blind. You can take the time to fix the problem and at most you will need to put some money in the swear jar when you get home, but a prepper who is depending on his gun to stay alive doesn’t have that luxury. If the gun stops working in the middle of a fight for your life, the least of your worries will be your language.

Usually when I am writing about tactical shotguns and advocating for a semiauto it is with the issues of a civilized world in mind: a home invasion, robbery, or the similar issues we may face in normal times. A prepper is preparing for more drastic situations. We might not be defending our homes against a couple of home invaders; it might be a big, angry horde of people. While the issues of the past could be settled with a relatively small amount of ammo, a rioting crowd bent on killing you and taking your food is another situation. You may need a gun that will keep running even after it’s been shot so much that the heat of the barrel is charring the forend. You may need a gun that can shoot not dozens, but hundreds of rounds without stopping. I am not entirely sure that shotgun exists, pump or semiauto. There is little question, however, that some have a better chance than others of surviving the abuse.


This Benelli M2 has been modified for 3-gun but can be used for defense as well.

Most semiauto shotguns were designed for hunters and hunters simply don’t shoot as much or as fast as you may need to in a tactical situation.


Dove hunting stresses a shotgun.

The possible exception might be dove hunters in South America. Those guys pound shotguns and only a very few can stand up to use there, particularly the rental guns that see almost constant shooting day in and day out.

Only one really stands out—Benelli. There are a few others that seem to hold their own; Beretta is one, but the top choice is the Benelli. It’s also the top gun for 3-gun and tactical shotgun shooting as well. If anybody puts more ammo through a shotgun in a shorter period of time than a competition shooter, they have escaped my notice.

The problem with most shotguns is that they use a gas system to operate the shotgun’s action. Usually there is a port in the barrel that will bleed off some of the propellant gas and direct it into the operating system. Rifles use this same concept, but have far fewer problems. One reason is that a rifle operates at much higher pressure, so the ports are smaller and don’t let the volume of fouling crud pass into the guts of the gun.

Another difference is that shotgun shells have much different internal ballistics. They have a lot of “stuff” going down the barrel with wad material, shot buffer, etc. These shed particles and combined with the unburned powder and fouling from the burned powder can result in a lot of debris traveling down the barrel. Also, because shotshells are low-pressure rounds, they tend to not burn the propellant powder as cleanly, which creates more fouling. As a result, these gas systems tend to choke up with crud. When that happens, the gun stops running.


This Benelli M2 is a good choice for defensive use.


The Benelli system works off the inertia and there is no port in the barrel to bleed off gas filled with debris. The inertia of the bolt trying to stay in place when the gun fires and recoils, loads a spring with energy and, through a series of events, that energy operates the shotgun.

Everything that leaves the shell leaves the barrel and no gas is used to operate the gun. That means that all the operating parts are protected from dirt and fouling. So they keep running because they don’t get clogged up. That and they are very well made, so they don’t break down as often as some other designs.

I have used the Benelli M2 inertia-driven gun for 3-gun shooting for several years. My first gun has maybe twenty-five thousand rounds through it and it’s still running fine. But that is nothing compared to what my buddy James Darst has put through his M2. “Pallets and pallets,” he said when I asked how many rounds he had through that gun.

The Benelli problem is that, with the import laws and the politically correct European executives in charge, you can’t buy an M2 configured for tactical use. But if you are willing do some modifications, this is a gun that will run and can do a good job as a survival shotgun.

The Benelli M4 tactical shotgun uses a different operating system. I have less experience with this gun, but it has a good reputation with law enforcement and military. The same Benelli problem applies; they won’t sell a gun that’s configured correctly for tactical use. They just pretend it’s a tactical gun. The M4 I have on loan has enough magazine tube length for at least seven rounds, but they block it so it only holds five, because five is a safe number that is common to hunting guns and management is much more comfortable with selling guns for hunting than fighting. It’s convoluted and foolish thinking, but that’s the way it is. In their defense, they also have to operate under some foolish American laws about how shotguns must be configured if they are to be imported.


The Benelli M4 Tactical Shotgun with a Zeiss red-dot sight.

Any Benelli you buy will require that you spend some money to bring it up to its potential. As they are already very expensive shotguns, this can be an issue with some preppers.

Remington VERSA MAX

The Remington VERSA MAX shotgun uses a different gas system than their other shotguns, one that has similarities in concept with the Benelli M4.

The VERSA MAX has seven ports that are strategically placed in the chamber. These ports are located, sized and shaped to act as an “adjustment valve” for the shotgun’s gas system. The simple genius is that the “valve” is controlled by the shotshell itself. When firing a 2 ¾-inch shell all seven ports are exposed. This allows the maximum amount of gas to bleed off and cycle the action. The longer 3-inch magnum shell blocks three of the ports, leaving four to bleed off gas and cycle the gun. With a 3 ½-inch shell, which is not only longer, but operates at a higher pressure, only one port is left exposed.

The gas is bled into a yoke attached to the bottom of the barrel under the chamber. This yoke contains two parallel tubes and in each tube is a rod that is machined so it has six rings or disks of steel along it to capture the pressure of the gas and push the rod. When the action is closed, the bolt pushes the rods forward. When the gun fires the gas bleeds into the yoke, pushes against the rings, and the rods are violently pushed back four-tenths of an inch to cycle the action. Once the last ring passes a port on the yokes, the gas is bled into the forearm of the shotgun and out a couple of ports on top, just ahead of the action.


There are no rubber O-rings on the rods to wear out, blow out, or add friction, just the steel rings. They are self-cleaning, as they scrape off the carbon and other debris with each pass and the shavings are blown out of the ports in the side of the yoke by the escaping gasses. However, they can also be disassembled for cleaning. This gun will keep running when dirty and hot and will last a long time with normal use.

There may be other semiauto shotguns on the market that can handle the abuse and stand up to sustained fire over a long period of time, but these are the guns I have used and abused and know I can trust.

If any prepper wants to go the semiauto route with a shotgun, these are guns they can trust.